MOSCOW -- Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has been released from jail after serving a 15-day sentence in connection with anticorruption demonstrations he organized that jolted the country’s political life.
Navalny’s release from custody on April 10 followed his arrest last month near the site of the March 26 demonstration in Moscow, one of the largest antigovernment street protests since a series of rallies in 2011-2012 that he also helped lead.
He had been expected to be released from a detention facility in northwestern Moscow.
But as journalists and reporters waited for him to exit the facility, his associate Leonid Volkov told the crowd that Navalny had been moved to a different facility in Moscow, where he was freed from custody.
After initial confusion about his whereabouts, Navalny tweeted a photograph of himself following his release. He wrote in a blog post that he was “incredibly happy to be with you again.”
Navalny was sentenced on March 27, one day after the protest that the government called illegal because city authorities had not granted permission for a march and rally in the center of the city. Authorities say the rally led to violations of public order.
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in dozens of cities across Russia on March 26 in the biggest grassroots protests in Russia since a series of demonstrations more than five years ago.
Those protests erupted after parliamentary elections tainted by allegations of widescale fraud and were fueled by anger over Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency after a stint as prime minster.
On March 26, more than 1,000 people were detained in Moscow alone.
Both the United States and the European Union expressed concern over Navalny’s arrest and Russia’s broader reaction to the protests.
A vocal critic of Putin, Navalny is seeking to run in a March 2018 presidential election that is widely expected to result in a new six-year term for Putin.
The March 26 protests followed an investigative report in which Navalny's anticorruption organization alleged that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has used corrupt practices to amass assets including luxury real estate in Russia and abroad.
Both the Kremlin and Medvedev have brushed off Navalny’s investigation.
Medvedev last week for the first time responded to Navalny’s report, calling the allegations “rubbish” and “nonsense” but not offering specifics.